A Book Abroad (novel out)

As always, I need to find time to update this blog with the greater ins and outs and ups and downs of my literary life, including words about recent grants for a to-be-written novel (thanks ARTSNB and Canada Council!), and progress with Galleon Books (titles on the way), but for now here’s a quick snippet, my publisher Rick Harsch with some extemporaneous musings on my recently published novel Apastoral: A Mistopia:

Interested in a copy of Apastoral? Try the Corona/Samizdat website, or send me a note. You won’t it on Amazon, or any-else-where.

“This is a novel that’s bleak and funny, down beat bit bumptious. You can see Lee inverting mores, ideas, professions, moods, logic, and the bestial nature of the human animals in ways that says this is all madness!” Jeff Bursey, from the Introduction.

“A stream-of-consciousness excursion into the animal mind of human suffering that chills to the bone even as it tickles the rib. Its unique brand of brutality reads with the haunting familiarity of a recurring nightmare.” Steven Mayoff, author

“The book reads with the zest of a Marx brothers caper, with all the layers of humor, the periodic moments of seemingly simple genius, a wealth of detail, and plenty of narrative shifts.” Rich Harsch, Publisher


Sept 8, 22

What I’ve been up to…

I’m well, but the first casualty of my busy life is social media. So Facebook, Insta, Twitter, yada yada… all fading away. But what have I been up to?

For one, editing and layout work. I think in the past five years I’ve had maybe one week where there was nothing on my plate. This also includes maintaining a client’s website and loads of correspondence with clients and potential clients. I’ve also been writing, finishing off a story collection began in 2014 and starting a novel. I’ve been slowly putting together Galleon as an online journal, hoping it’ll go live in the next month or so.

Two, music, primarily rehearsing and recording with Cindy. There are songs in the works, but for now I’ve been helping to record Cindy’s own material. Check this awesomeness out:

Three, running. Gotta keep in shape, building up to run a half marathon this summer.

And on that note… Off I go!

Maybe we need a new title here…

See, when I first started this blog in early 2014 the word “indistractable” brought up only a few Google hits, assuring me of its relative originality but disabusing me of any true clams on the word (“get your clams off me!”).  That was unlikely anyway – nothing much is truly new under planet Neologism’s sun. But now there’s a book entitled Indistractable, which would explain a surge of random (not fandom) hits the past year here.

Yeah, it deals with ADHD. And though I may harbour a few ADD dinghies myself, the reason why I called my blog Indistractable was because it was just a neat word I hoped I’d coined and I’m not, I’m very.  Neat? Nah, distractable.

Meanwhile, “Corvid-19” is nothing to crow about and  brings up nearly two million hits, several articles in respectable web-roosts, but typo or no (see here for an example from the Read Dear Advocate)  it’s hardly murderous error and no pandemonium has ensued.

And what’s a writer/editor to do in this viral hunkerdown but work on while others work on their works in progress. Stay safe everyone,  grow herbs in your window and watch the (non-corvid) starlings search the peeps of grass for signs of spring while snow falls softly around their feathered…

Oh, I seem to have gotten distracted.  Back to work…

Story Publication

Very pleased to see my story “The Stranger at the Gate” online now at ancrages.ca. Well, not just the story – in English, French (translation by Herménégilde Chiasson) and Mi’kmaq (translation by Serena Sock) – but also the video of my reading at the Aberdeen Cultural Centre (which was a group performance), Plus, there’s artwork by Emma Hassencahl-Perley.

This was all done through the Ancrages project Faire Communauté (Creating Community), a province-wide tour in late 2017 by selected authors.

The story and the video are found linked under my bio here:

Other participants’ stories/essays/videos are here:



A Prize!

I’m not sure what year it was – perhaps 1998 – but my first acknowledgement from the writing world came when I was awarded a 2nd prize in the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s Literary Competition. I do remember that the judge in the short fiction category was St. John’s author Paul Bowdring, and that Miramichi author (former author?) Larry Lynch took first prize. My story was called “Anna” and (something I also recall) it was the first time I wrote without quotation marks for dialogue.

Queue my long history with WFNB: from 1999 to 2014 I was (though not always but sometimes concurrently) a board member, newsletter editor, webmaster, five-year “interim” executive director and unofficial photographer. During that time, I never again entered the literary competition – I found judges, notified winners, co-emceed the awards soirée.

But this year I did enter the competition, aiming for the David Adams Richards Prize by sending four of my “Shabazz stories” (nearly 30,000 words) under the title “The Purpose of Evolution in Not Immortality” (yes, I got two grants in 2016 to write this same collection).

A few days back a call came from WFNB executive director Cathy Fynn with the satisfying news that…. I’d won. The judge’s comments:

Sophisticated literary fiction: haunts, tickles, and disturbs — and subverts. I laughed several times in places I later felt I shouldn’t, and I often shuddered. I at once admired the writer’s technique, and experienced emotional connections with the characters; those two things don’t always happen.  Because the writer seems to be not as concerned with plot as much as what the characters believe is happening, some stories risk sag in the middle. Overall, however, the work is a delight: rich and strange.

The ‘sag’ must be watched, but that’s the risk of rambling/gambling (gamboling!) outside the plot (something I’ve loved doing since reading Gogol so long ago).

Am still writing this collection, but with one story at Numero Cinq, one published as a chapbook, and the aforementioned grants, this concept (Dr. Shabazz, a mysterious psychologist) continues to treat me well.

And nice to come full circle with WFNB.

A nod of thanks for both the Canada Council for the Arts and ArtsNB for supporting the writing of the collection.

On writing ambitiously

On the heels of finishing a story I’ve had in my head for years, the 7100-word title story of my work-in-progress (nods to the Great Granting Agencies) – “The Purpose of Evolution is not Immortality” – which now brings the collection to five completed stories and 40,000 words, a blog entry to say I am here, writing ambitiously, assiduously, assertively.

On the heels of a story that intentionally broke several cardinal rules of narrative style (not the first in the collection to do so), a story that even I’m still sussing out, that stretches greedy fingers into all potential perspectives, a blog entry to say…

Well, I’ve already said that part: I am writing, and the way I want to.

I realize my need to experiment has led to under-publication, especially of larger works – namely two novels – even though I feel these works are engaging, a hell of a lot of fun. I see author-friends launching books left, right, and centre – sometimes with very little work already in print – but there just aren’t enough publishers taking risks, and often those that do have a more academic bent. That’s not me either.

Good fiction is unruly, alive, and as individual as the author him/herself. Nothing brings a stop-glare-and-sigh as much as the phrase “there’s too much style” or “prose shouldn’t draw attention to itself.”

A few years back, after contacting an agent at the recommendation of an editor who enjoyed the novel but was at a sinking-ship publishing house, all I got back was, “I don’t know, they’re just so strange.”  The next agent, despite a direct recommendation from one of his authors, never responded at all.

So on the heels of writing perhaps the strangest, most ambitious story yet, this a wide-smiling middle finger to the middle-grounders, the play-safers. Fiction is a commodity, yes, but it’s also an art, and one that can modulate many moods. How many actually think about the effect of sentence structure on your breathing? The effect of vague dialogue on your mental state? The purpose of seemingly random changes, unpredictability, on the narrative tension? And how about metaphors, scenes, symbols that defy easy interpretation?

I’m sure a few readers of the recently published “Mouth Human Must Die” were left cold, confused. And why was it so vulgar? So weird?

Happy, though, that initial response to the just-finished fiction is positive. A good writing group goes a long way. Nods there to Carol, Kayla, Susan and Elizabeth. And to my closest reader, Cindy.

Two Recent Reviews

I’ve just had two reviews posted on the Atlantic Books Today website (following two longer reviews – of Kevin Major and Kerry-Lee Powell – in their recent print edition). A small caveat is that Atlantic Books Today is funded by publishers, but managing editor Chris Benjamin does want honest, well-written reviews, sees the value in that.

I hosted André Narbonne in October at the Attic Owl Reading Series, was impressed and later begged off attempting a review of another story collection (quite poorly written) and requested permission to send a review of Narbonne’s collection Twelve Miles to Midnight. It’s a great story collection. The review is here.

And some time this summer I was sent the PDF of David Doucette’s A Hard Old Love Amongst Scavengers, and promptly forgot about it. I spend all day at the PC or laptop editing writers’ words, don’t want to read more fiction on the screen. Anyway, when asked about the review’s status I said right, right, is there a hard copy? One was sent. One day I’ll make a list of my favourite Atlantic Canadian Fiction. It’ll have Doucette’s novel near the top*. What a welcome surprise. That review is here.

*Along with Steffler’s The Grey Islands (fiction? poetry?), Powell’s Willem De Kooning’s Paintbrush, Bursey’s Verbatim: A Novel, Gunn’s Amphibian, Butler Hallett’s Deluded Your Sailors, and work by Mark Anthony Jarman, Ian Colford, Narbonne, Coady…. Maybe that’s the next blog post.